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Who Should I Use as a Job Reference

Blog / April 5, 2018

Generating a list of references is a critical part of the job-seeking process. Not all hiring managers will ask for references, but you still need to be prepared. Who has good things to say about you? Your dog walker thinks you’re cool, and so do some of your kids’ friends, but most hiring managers don’t want to hear from an 8 year-old. Focus on three to five professionals who can speak to your work ethic, skills, education, and performance. Here are a few people you should probably include.

Former supervisor

A former boss can verify your reliability and performance, but don’t feel like you have to put her on the list. If she doesn’t know enough about your abilities and accomplishments to speak well of you, don’t include her—especially if you left the company on bad terms. And if your current boss doesn’t know that you’re job-hunting, don’t put her on the list. She doesn’t want to discover you’re leaving through some stranger!

Former co-workers

Your co-workers probably know you better than anyone and might even provide a better reference than a boss since they worked with you every single day. They know how hard you work, how well you problem-solve, and how well you collaborate with your team.


Personal relations are tricky. It makes sense to include a friend or family member if he was your co-worker or a former manager at one point. They can discuss your strengths, weaknesses, and fit for the position. But don’t put your mom on the list. That’s just weird.  

Faculty members

If you just graduating from school and you’ve never had a “real job” before, it’s okay to use a former professor or advisor, especially if she teaches in a field related to the jobs you’re applying for. And participation on sports teams always looks good to potential employers—teamwork and hard work and all—so a former coach would work. Classmates could also make good references if you worked closely with them on long-term group projects.

Volunteer supervisors

If you’ve volunteered regularly at a non-profit organization, good for you! Make sure that tidbit makes it onto your resume and list your supervisor or contact person there as a reference. Volunteering is impressive and increases your hire-ability, so it’s important to brag about that.

How to go about it

Always ask your references first if it’s okay to use them. It doesn’t reflect well for you if they’re surprised by the reference check or they struggle to remember who you are. Tell them what kind of position you’re applying for and give them a copy of your resume. Be sure to point out any skills or accomplishments you want them to mention. Keep them updated and thank them for their help with this process.

Put your references on a sheet of paper separate from your resume. Include each person’s name, title, company name, company address, phone number, and e-mail address. Only provide your list if the hiring manager requests it, but always have it with you!


For more information on how to make sure you’re best prepared for the next step in your career, check out our website at

Blog written by Erin Greenhalgh